Mesh tops have come a long way since you played on your high school's basketball team. Thanks to designers like Alexander Wang, who incorporated the perforated fabric into ultra-chic, ready-to-wear pieces, it's graduated beyond sport uniform (or something to toss on for the walk home from a particularly sweaty yoga class).
You can now find the versatile item in a range of silhouettes, from subtle ringer detailing to breezy cropped versions, and wear it for all sorts of situations. Someone with plenty of practice nailing a sportswear-tinged look that isn’t intended for the gym is Kesha McLeod. The stylist has worked with Serena Williams for years, and also dresses NBA stars like the Golden State Warriors’ Andre Iguodala and the Miami Heat’s Chris Bosh—so she's watched hole-y tops transition from the basketball court to haute couture firsthand.
"People are embracing sensuality in their fashion choices."
“It’s been the next big activewear trend, after everyone [designed] joggers,” McLeod explains. “Givenchy, Dries Van Noten, and Balenciaga have all included mesh or netting in recent collections—it’s great when high fashion meets sport, because that usually makes for very accessible trends.” The considerable airflow factor has some practical perks, too: "They’re breathable, sexy pieces."
McLeod thinks the uptick of mesh tops jives well with the popularity of see-through shirts and exposed bras. “People are embracing sensuality in their fashion choices” she says. “I love seeing netted athleisure pieces worn all the time now."
Swapping out a sweaty tank for an airy cropped tee after a HIIT session is easy enough. But these items have lots of potential for completely non-athletic pursuits, too.
Ahead, McLeod shares a few ideas for when and where to work mesh tops into your fashion mix.
For a swishy cocktail party on a really sweltering night
Mesh tee: “A lot of mesh tops are often paired with bras, but why not a tank underneath and belt it with a skirt for the illusion of a one piece? This [also] works well with a pant and a blazer—it’ll give off a jumpsuit [vibe],” says McLeod.
When you need something to wear with your crystal crown to a music festival
Cropped tank: “Festivals are made for netted crops. Some daring women even opt for no undergarments. While most aren't there yet—myself included—I like to pair a flesh-tone bra under [mine], and add some short-shorts and oversized sunnies," offers the stylist.
Try: Koral Crop Mesh Tank, $88
For a chill wellness retreat where shoes and shirts are definitely optional
Netted tee: “One of my favorite things to do while away is meditate on the beach at sunrise," McLeod says. "A soft sports bra (one with no compression) and a loose, summery skirt provide ease as you get into it with yourself.”
Try: Alala Island Mesh Tee, $63
Next time you're having avocado toast and turmeric lattes with your BFF
Short-sleeve football jersey: McLeod says to “add this over a cute, contrasting-color sports bra for brunch with the girls on a Saturday afternoon—because maybe you’re coming from a hot yoga class, and who wants to put on tons of layers after that?”
Try: Nike NSW Crop Mesh Knit Top, $40
For a low-key afternoon of running errands, then hitting up a rooftop barbecue
Long-sleeved top: “[It's an] easy [way] to enhance your workout look without giving the ‘just-came-from-the-gym’ vibe," says McLeod. "[It] can go from afternoon to evening with a cute pair of joggers and low-top sneakers, or shorts and mules.”
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